I am one of the lucky ones. Twenty years in the kid business and other than having to read “those” warning letters from school…luckily, I never had to worry about any lice issues. That was until my 10-year-old daughter, with the waist-length hair, came home with a different letter. According to the letter my daughter was harbouring an entire civilization beneath her auburn tresses. I could not finish reading the letter because the very thoughts of any additional life forms (beyond the children), was more than I knew I had enough alcohol to combat (and no, not the rubbing type)!
The only responsible thing to do was to enter complete denial that my last name was in the addressee field on the envelope. This letter must totally belong to some other forsaken household as there is no way my children (the ones scrubbed within an inch of their lives nightly in the bath) could be the host to any insect whatsoever. Alas, a complete re-read of the letter dragged me partially out of denial confirming that we did indeed have company.
First trip (still in denial mode) was to the pharmacy to check with a pharmacist on what product could be used to exterminate the guests and not harm the kid. Over the years, this pharmacist has come to know my family. She insisted on conducting her own, official investigation of my kid’s unfortunate situation. Thanks to this professional I had to reality face reality. Not only did my kid deserve the lice letter (evidence of the creatures confirmed by the pharmacist), but the joint (my kid’s head) was jumping!
This is one of those moments you wish there might have been a kid-wash that I could have sent this child to (similar to a car wash/dry cleaner) where they would be humanely fumigated (including clothing) and returned lice-free, ready to go home. Sadly, no such service exists.
My friendly pharmacist (after helping to confirm this news …no longer considered that friendly) then went on to mention the effects that lice can have on your entire family. You know the drill, the washing everything you own in hot water (at least twice), the hair products, the combing, the worry, the sealing all stuffed animals/toys in plastic for weeks…all of this effort is for the average person. My family is a herd of 11! My mind raced ahead trying to figure out all the implications. I no longer wanted a kid/wash for this child I was thinking more like depositing her anonymously at a local orphanage and waiting it out.
Then my lovely pharmacist reminded me that since my child was so symptomatic the rest of the kids were likely victims of the same invasion of PEST GUEST. The orphanage scheme was looking very appealing (except even if my kids were ninjas…there is just no way to drop that big a number off at such a place anonymously, cover of night, notwithstanding). In all of this, I had a four-month-old baby. All I could think of was shaving everyone’s head (the baby only had a few wisps)…oh the thoughts my evil mind was thinking (like starting with the husband’s mop first!). It must have been a look of horror/fear on my face (as all the colour had drained away) that prompted “pharmacist-gal” to show me the products one could buy to treat these unwelcome guests. Each box of the recommended solution was about $12.00 and I would need to have two boxes, for each one of my family members … (Forget the orphanage…I need to take the baby and escape).
I called my pediatrician and he was able to issue a prescription that my benefits covered…thankfully. I left the store with enough ammunition to rival a commercial exterminator’s entire vehicle load of pest-combating formula.
Then along came the process of washing everyone’s hair and applying the solution. Then the comb out part with the tiny toothed comb. Fun like you cannot imagine. The older kids were in tears from all the combing. (All I wanted to do was take the baby and run away.) Only to be followed by the excitement of cleaning up and sterilization of anything and everything. Again, more fun.
Pest-host child came home from school the next day horrified to see all her jackets and sweatshirts hanging up outside the front of the house drying. “Mom, take those clothes down or everyone in my class will know I am the one with the lice!” I answered… “Considering I got a letter …doesn’t everyone already know?” Apparently these letters are very common and go out weekly to at least one classmate’s home. At the class level, the kids are not supposed to know who has the dreaded guests (you would think scratching your head often would be a sign). Because of the numbers I deal with BOTH the front and the back yards had laundry drying everywhere.
Well, I must say I am very proud of myself as I did want to BURN everything. I washed EVERYTHING, TWICE in hot water and bravely combed everyone’s locks through two rounds of treatments. Friends who know me and family kept more than a polite distance from the invested retinue I lead.
While being ostracized by everyone (family, friends and the rest of the human race in general), my best friend was amazing. My son and her son were friends and she invited him (and I) to visit her place including a sleepover. Did she just not get what I had told her? Nah… as she said “what is a louse here or there between friends?”…besides I was being too “nit-picky”! I was stunned. I never forgot how I felt. Someone saw past our pest guest. This friend thought I was worth more than the louse. I learned at that moment sometimes we focus on what we are afraid of missing the reality of who we are and should be…I was an invited as a guest regardless of the potential of “Pest-Guest” tagging along.
I also discovered other products to remove these unwanted guests, some are easy, and some are messy. I resisted the urge to listen to the kids’ version of when “Arthur” gets head lice (something about mayonnaise and a shower cap…way too low tech for me)! The best product seems to be tea tree oil. You can add it to any shampoo and “PEST GUEST” disappears (child remains). If you continue to dab a little on the kids’ hair (back of the neck) each morning…you can further identify your scalp as being unfriendly before the pests move in and take over. I also hear the same is true of Lavender oil, although I have never used it. (There is something after all to that smelly bubble bath and old lady perfume smelling like lavender).
Needless to say, I still cringe when rifling through a backpack I discover one of these letters indicating some child’s family in my kid’s class will be doing a lot of laundry. Only to realize, I did live through this and in the grand scheme of things…it is not as big a deal as I had previously thought. Compared to the illnesses and accidents that can befall the school-age crowd…lice is no big deal. Though I will admit not a pleasant experience and one that make me itchy just thinking about it!